January 11, 13:30 GMT
The Emirates Stadium, London
Arsenal host Stoke City for round 2 in the Premier League, and the gunners would certainly be looking to take revenge they suffered at the hands of the potters the last time they faced each other. That 3-2 defeat at the Britannia Stadium did not go down well with the Arsenal fans and a convincing win here would do a world of good for the players as well as the fans.
Stoke City will be quietly confident coming to the Emirates Stadium, having won their last 3 EPL games. Also, Arsenal seem to always have a problem facing them, suffering from sort of inferiority complex, and they would want to particularly take advantage of that.
Team News and Tactics
In rare good news for Arsenal, especially when it concerns injuries, they welcome back 2 players from the treatment table, with both Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil back to fitness, with the German even lined up for a surprise inclusion in the team. The gunners also welcome Olivier Giroud after he finished serving his 3 match ban following the FA Cup win against Hull City. However, Danny Welbeck is still out of the side as are Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere.
With regards to the starting XI, the biggest question would be who would start in goal. There has been a lot of hue and cry following the Szczesny smoking incident, and his father simply seemed to have made matters worse by publicly shaming the Arsenal defence while backing his son. All eyes will be on the name at the top of the sheet to see whether the Polishman has been forgiven or if David Ospina gets another start.
And after a really, really long time, the entire Arsenal defence is available for selection, and it would quite possibly be the strongest 4 who will make the cut, with Gibbs on the left and Debuchy on the right. Walcott may be back on the bench following an indifferent game against Hull, but whether Ozil makes a start or if he will be used as a sub in another question that Arsenal fans will be looking at. With Welbeck out, the possibility is certainly there, with Alexis on the right, Cazorla on the left and Ozil in the centre. In fact, Ozil might even start on the left as well, so there are options available there. For a change, the manager has a headache that he will enjoy trying to resolve.
Predicted Line Up: Szczesny; Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Debuchy; Flamini, Coquelin; Alexis, Cazorla, Ozil; Giroud
Stoke City are in a good run of form, having won their last 3 Premier League games. They have a good hold on Arsenal when it comes to home games, but they have not been so good when they played the Gunners at Highbury or the Emirates Stadium. They will want to correct that record and come away with another win, and do the double on the Arsenal.
Stoke will welcome new signing Philipp Wollscheid who signed for them on a loan deal for the rest of the season from Bayer Leverkusen, although the manager said it is doubtful if he will make his debut against Arsenal. They will also have Bojan Krkic, Victor Moses and Marc Muniesa available as well, even though it would be difficult to see any of them being thrust into the game earlier than required. Mark Hughes would want to ensure that all 3 players don’t suffer any more injuries, with Marc Wilson doubtful thanks to a knee problem while Mame Biram Diouf won’t be available as he is off to the African Nations Cup.
Predicted Line Up: Begovic; Pieters, Muniesa, Shawcross, Cameron; N’Zonzi, Whelan; Arnautovic, Adam, Walters; Crouch
- Mark Hughes has managed 5 teams against Arsenal but has failed to win even one away from the Britannia Stadium
- Stoke City have conceded the most number of goals this season from set-pieces, a total of 11 that includes penalties.
- So far this season, Arsenal have played with 12 different back 4 combinations.
Despite Arsenal practically handing the game to Southampton at the St. Mary’s Stadium, they did put together a good game and the win against Hull in the FA Cup would give them a needed confidence boost. And with Stoke not having had much success against Arsenal away from home, history might well repeat itself, with Arsenal bagging all 3 points.
Predicted Score: Arsenal 2-1 Stoke City